Based on the controversial book, May It Please Your Honor written by Gopal Godse, the brother of Nathuram Godse (the man who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi), Hey Ram Nathuram is as controversial as the book. This isn't the first time the play has come into the limelight. In 1997, the same play was produced under the same banner with a different title Mi Nathuram Godse Boltoy. After running for 13 shows successfully, Mi Nathuram Godse Boltoy faced a lot of opposition and thereafter was banned by the government. It took multiple court proceedings to lift the ban and resume its thought-provoking journey.
On the contrary, the current play was wholeheartedly accepted by the government and the censor board alike, with the latter grading it a huge A (unlike films, grading in plays differentiates them from commercial and non-commercial artwork) that qualifies for government grants.
The play produced, directed and starred by the celebrated Marathi actor, Sharad Ponkshe, still managed to draw criticism from a certain section of the society, for its portrayal of Gandhi. At the same time, the common consensus among the general population that the play glorifies Nathuram Godse, didn’t help much.
Having said that, the 3-hour play delves into the life of Nathuram Godse in his later years and explores his strong fundamentals and reasons that led up to Gandhi’s assassination, which by itself is thought-provoking. The play starts off with a minute long narration by actor Sachin Khedekar, providing an insight to audience into the political backdrop at the time the play is based on. The story is woven beautifully, as it explores every aspect and incidents that led up to the assassination. Sharad Ponkshe is the spiritual embodiment of Nathuram Godse. Now, even though it's a pretty intense play there are a few elements of comedy towards the second act which surely bring out a chuckle.
To be honest, it’s a one-man show, with Sharad Ponkshe in the lead, rest of the cast is forgettable. The man lives and breathes the character and in most likelihood was born to take up this role. His charisma, portrayal and delivery enthrall the audience every time he took to the stage followed by a roaring round of applause.
As a whole, the play forces you to think and is controversial at the same time. It certainly doesn't cater to all types of audience. It’s for people who like to listen to both the sides the story. Also, the length of the play may turn away a few people but at any given point you won't be yawning. Watch it if you like conspiracy theories and also a lesson in history, as the play exposes you to Nathuram Godse’s last speech which was swept under the rug for almost 70 years till now.
If we were to rate it for acting, execution, and story, we would probably say flawless. The play is currently on a month-long break and will resume in June so stay tuned!